Dung Houses

We visited a Massai village in Kenya, and we were invited into one of their homes. The Massai build their houses out of cow dung. This is my friend Denise and I inside one of these homes.  We are sitting on cow skins laid on a pile of dung.  Surprisingly, it did not smell of cow dung. Go figure.  It takes 3 months to build one home.

Later that day, we had collected a pile of beaded jewelry we wanted to purchase from the Massai. I put Denise in charge of negotiating. I would have simply paid the first price offered and thought, “Oh my God, the guy lives in a dung house, give him all your money.” This is why Denise says I am not allowed to talk during negotiations.
The actual negotiations were very interesting.  We put all the jewelry into a pile.  Denise squatted down with the Massai villager that had been designated as their negotiator.  He took a twig and scratched a price in his forearm.  Then he handed the twig to Denise.  She sort of stared at him, and then tried to figure out how she was going to scratch her counter offer onto her own forearm.  The Massai negotiator stopped her and said, “That is a white board, it won’t work.  You must use a black board.”  Then he offered his forearm to Denise for her counter offer.  They spent the better part of 15 minutes scratching numbers and rubbing them out.  It was fascinating.  Every time I opened my mouth to ask a question, Denise would say, “Shut up Kelly.”  I did not take this personally.  She got me twenty cents on the dollar.


Categories: Africa

2 replies

  1. What a bloody fantastic story! Got to meet Denise – anyone who can get Kelly to keep her mouth closed and still make out in a bargain has got to be uber cool. Love the Massai’s understated humour – a white board won’t work. LOL! Still… why not scratch numbers in the dirt? Must hurt to be scratching your arm with a twig for 15 minutes? Delighted y’all are having a great time. SEND MORE PIX!!!!! Love, V xox

  2. Fantastic story, Kelly. I know it’s true, because I’ve been in exactly the same situation – maybe the masai same village? maybe the same dung house? You may want Denise to be very tough on negotiations if you come across some – what are they called? – small leather “book marks” that you stick inside your book to indicate which page you’ve come to. Elegantly decorated with animal motives. We were told that they had been done by members of this masai family/tribe (probably for generations) and that they were very unique. We negotiated (probably Kelly-style negotiations) together with the children who also wanted to buy not only for themselves but also for some of their friends. We ended up buying maybe 10 or 12 pieces. And back at the hotel a couple of days later we found the exact same “book marks” in the hundreds at approx. half the price we paid the masais :-). But a great story to remember. Hope you are having a fantastic time :-).

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